South Dakota ranked 2nd most gambling-addicted state

Photo courtesy: MGN
Photo courtesy: MGN(WLUC)
Published: Apr. 27, 2018 at 6:17 PM CDT
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A new report ranks South Dakota the 2nd most gambling addicted state in the nation.

The report by the financial reporter WalletHub was released ahead of Kentucky Derby week, known for drawing huge wagers across the nation.

While gambling addiction counselors say sports gambling is certainly on the rise in South Dakota, they believe the biggest issue fueling local gambling addictions is the easy access to a growing number of casinos.

“We have video lottery on every street corner,” Keystone Gambling addiction counselor Deborah Swensen said.

South Dakota tied for the most casinos per capita according to the WalletHub report and the 3rd most gaming machines per capita.

“With easy accessibility, they find themselves going to a casino or bar or somewhere and they get caught up in winning,” Swensen said.

Swensen said that desire to win and the constant, easy access often fuels an addict.

“It’s on every street corner and in every convenience store, so a lot of times they struggle with the idea of how am I going to stop gambling?” she said.

“We put forth a lot of effort that not only are our players having a lot of fun playing the games, but also playing responsibly,” Wade LaRoche, the South Dakota Department of Revenue Public Affairs Manager said.

The State Department of Revenue overseas lottery and gaming in South Dakota and says it is committed to helping people with problem gambling.

“On a lot of our products we have a problem gambling helpline, those calls are always confidential and we want to make sure we provide the resources for our players if they do need help,” LaRoche said.

Gambling is a major source of revenue for South Dakota; since 1987 it has added nearly $3 billion to the state's general fund, largely used for education, as well as the capital construction and other state funds.

“Gambling brings profit to South Dakota, unfortunately it also hurts a lot of family members and a lot of people in our state,” Swensen said.

Swensen says some of that profit comes at a high cost for those addicted to gambling.

“They do find themselves in poverty quickly and often they lose their family members,” Swensen said. “One of the leading causes of suicide in South Dakota is gambling.”

Swesen said about 50 percent of the gambling addictions they see involve video lottery; they started seeing patients with that addiction just six months after video lottery began in South Dakota.

The Keystone facility in Canton is one of the only in-patient gambling treatment centers in the state, but they say the Gambler's Anonymous program available in several communities is incredibly important for continued support.

If you or someone you know might have a problem with gambling, contact the national helpline at 1-800-522-4700.